Signs of the Times

Pope, Putin Discuss Catholic-Orthodox Relations

Pope Benedict XVI and President Vladimir Putin of Russia spent 25 minutes speaking privately March 13, discussing Catholic-Orthodox relations and ways to strengthen the relationship between the Vatican and the Russian government. Although two translators were present for the private meeting in Pope Benedict’s library, they told reporters that the pope and Putin conversed in German and required the translators’ assistance only to clarify the meaning of one word. A Vatican statement said that both the pope’s meeting with Putin and the meeting held simultaneously by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, took place in a very positive atmosphere. The two meetings paid particular attention to relations between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, the statement said.

Vatican Urges Speed on New English Mass Translation

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments and a committee of congregation advisers have urged the quick completion of the new English translation of the Mass. The Vox Clara Committee, a group of English-speaking bishops who advise the Vatican on English translations, met from March 12 to 15 at the Vatican. A press release about the meeting repeatedly referred to hopes that the translation of the Roman Missal, promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 2002, would be completed quickly. The International Commission on English in the Liturgy is preparing the translation in several sections. When individual bishops’ conferences approve the texts translated into English from Latin, they request Vatican permission to use them.


Church Groups Alarmed Over Violence in Zimbabwe

Recent police violence and the arrest and torture in jail of antigovernment protesters have been the cause for serious concern, said the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe. The actions of the law enforcement agents were provocative, insulting and dehumanizing, the commission said in a March 13 statement. The police exhibited highhandedness and overzealousness in dealing with the situation, it said. The commission said the Zimbabwean Constitution guarantees the freedom of association and assembly, and yet the law enforcement agents brutalized with impunity people who wanted to enjoy their right to association and assembly. The commission called for the immediate release of all imprisoned activists and for a return to the rule of law. It also called for a thorough investigation into the shootings so that those involved are brought to book. An activist was shot dead by police, and several people were arrested March 11 while protesting in the capital city of Harare. Protesters were demonstrating against the government, which banned a prayer rally shortly before it was scheduled to occur.

Sainthood Cause Opened for Prince Gallitzin

The cause for canonization of the second priest ordained in the United States, a Russian prince who became known as the apostle of the Alleghenies, has been initiated by the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. Bishop Joseph V. Adamec of that diocese held the opening session of the diocesan inquiry for the canonization cause of the Rev. Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin on March 11 at the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel in Loretto. The son of Prince Demetrius Alexeivich Gallitzin, the ambassador of Empress Catherine the Great of Russia to the Netherlands, Prince Demetrius Augustine was born at The Hague on Dec. 22, 1770. Baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church with Empress Catherine as his godmother, Prince Demetrius became a Catholic at the age of 17 when his German-born mother, Countess Amalia von Schmettau, returned to the practice of the faith of her birth. Because of his conversion to Catholicism, Demetrius was denied a place at the imperial Russian court. In 1792 he sailed from Rotterdam to the New World, and within eight days of his arrival in Baltimore, Prince Demetrius entered St. Mary’s Seminary there.

Bishops Announce Details of Pope’s Trip to Austria

Pope Benedict XVI will visit Austria on Sept. 7-9 to celebrate the 850th anniversary of Austria’s most important Marian shrine, the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariazell, the country’s bishops announced. Pope Benedict will arrive in Vienna Sept. 7, lead a prayer service in the city center and then meet with government authorities and members of the diplomatic corps in the Hofburg Palace. During the morning of Sept. 8, the pope will travel to Mariazell where he will celebrate Mass in the square outside the shrine’s basilica. He will later hold an evening prayer service with priests, seminarians, deacons and members of religious orders. Back in Vienna Sept. 9, the pope will celebrate Mass in St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

Japanese Archbishop Criticizes Referendum

Boosting the military of Japan would be a grave threat to Asian Pacific countries, said Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki. He strongly criticized Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s upcoming referendum to revise Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which is an obstacle to Japan’s remilitarization and military involvement overseas. Japan without Article 9 would be a serious threat to neighboring countries because of Japan’s aggressive history before World War II, said Archbishop Takami. If Japanese citizens vote in favor of the referendum May 3, Japan’s Constitution Day, the government would be permitted to maintain de jure military forces, which could be deployed for combat.

Cruelty and Killing Bring Chaos in Iraq

Four years of war have brought an increasing spiral of cruelty and killing to Iraq and left the country in a state of chaos, said Shlemon Warduni, the Chaldean auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, Iraq. The war also has prompted a massive flight of Catholics and others from the country, leaving behind a shrinking Catholic minority, he said. Bishop Warduni made the comments to Vatican Radio March 19, the fourth anniversary of the U.S.-led bombing and invasion of Iraq. Before the conflict broke out, I said that God does not want war in Iraq. Even then one could see that the consequences would be terrible, the bishop said. And in fact, the cruelty and the killing have increased from day to day. Children, youths, the old, the sick, we are all suffering, because the world is not thinking of what’s good for the Iraqi people, he said. Everyone is thinking of their own interests, and so the Iraqis have been forgotten. Terrorism is increasing, and with it the number of orphans and widows, he said.

Maryland Catholics Optimistic on Penalty Ban

Despite the defeat of a bill to ban the death penalty in Maryland, Catholic leaders said they were encouraged that the abolitionist cause appears to have gathered significant strength after many years of frustrated efforts. Known as SB 211, the bill would have replaced the death penalty with prison sentences of life without parole, but it was defeated on March 15 in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee by a vote of 5 to 5. The bill needed six votes to go the Senate floor. The progress we have made in the short time of the last year has been nothing short of astounding, said Richard J. Dowling, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, a key supporter of the bill. I believe that we had sufficient votes in the House Judiciary Committee and on the floor of the House and Senate, he said. I’m very upbeat about how far the church and other repeal advocates have come. Dowling said the support of Gov. Martin J. O’Malley, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Baltimore, Md., who forcefully testified in the bill’s favor, also has breathed new life into the abolitionist cause.

New Orleans Teach-in Treats Poverty, Racism

More than 500 students from Jesuit colleges and universities gathered in New Orleans March 9-11 to discuss racism and poverty and engage in spring-break service work. They were among the approximately 2,000 Jesuit-affiliated students who were to descend on New Orleans in a 10-day period to aid in the city’s ongoing recovery efforts. The teach-in, Rebuilding Our Communities: Facing Racism and Poverty, featured discussions on institutional racism, economic development and poverty, environmental racism, fair housing and employment. Sponsored by the Ignatian Solidarity Network in San Francisco and the New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus, the event also featured spiritual reflection and a Mass on March 11 presided over by a personal representative of Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, the Jesuit superior general.

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